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News: Civilians killed and injured at a rally for the incumbent in Merawi town, west Gojjam zone, Amhara region

The election campaign rally in Merawi town (Picture: Merawi Communication)

By Medihane Ekubamichael @Medihane

Addis Ababa, May 22/2021 –  People were reportedly killed and injured during a stand off between security forces and the public at a demonstration held in Merawi town of North Mecha Woreda, West Gojjam Zone of Amhara Regional State on Thursday, May 21, 2021.

The commander of the zonal police department, Commander Kelemu Asega told Addis Standard that the incident happened at a demonstration organized by the Prosperity Party as a part of its campaign for the upcoming election. The police commander said that security forces clashed with the crowd after groups who he didn’t mention by name, rallied the youth and attempted to disrupt the event leading to a deadly and destructive dispute.

Commander Kelemu said “Measures were taken by the security force at the scene to control the situation.” he said, adding” Two people died and at least twenty people were injured as per our confirmation from health facilities.”

The Commander said “It is too early to disclose details surrounding the victims’ death as it is still under investigation,” and emphasized that the death toll that is circulating on social media iss inaccurate. “An investigative team is working to rectify who initiated and participated in the incident,” he said.

He further said the cause of the death is still under investigation and it will be disclosed along with the investigation result to determine if they were killed with a bullet, a stone or a knife. He also said that security forces also suffered mild injuries in the scene. According to the commander, peace is restored in Merawi town and people are undertaking their usual life calmly. 

Meanwhile the National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) released a statement indicating that there were casualties and injuries which it described “a result of measures taken by the security forces against students who raised their voices peacefully.” NAMA in its statement also announced that it condemns the attack on the students and called on the government to immediately investigate the incident, hold perpetrators accountable and release the outcomes of the investigation to the public.

Contrary to Kelemu’s statement, a resident of Merawi town told Deutsche Welle (DW) that four students had been killed and 12 injured in the clashes erupted over the election campaigning demonstration organized by the Prosperity Party. The resident also mentioned that one of the dead was a university student .

Furthermore, DW cited Ashenafi Akalu, Chairman of NAMAin West Gojjam Zone, who said that 7 students were killed and 46 were injured in the clash, adding that six of those killed were from neighbourhoods of Amarit, Enamirt, Merawi town Gebrel area, Taringa, Bachma and Dagi Abyot and Kebeles.

Ashenafi went on to explain that the residents of the town were not willing to participate in the rally. “Farmers were marching to the town on horseback and mules and the organizers of the event went to school, rounded students into groups of up to ten, and persuaded them to join the demonstration,” he continued, “But when the students joined the demonstration, they chanted ‘PP is a thief, PP is a killer’, and then things went awry.”

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On the other hand, in a statement  released by the town’s communication bureau, Temesgen Tesfa, head of the North Mecha Woreda Peace and Security Office, however indicated that two people were killed and seven others were injured in the clash. According to Temesgen, the cause of death and injury is being investigated. He also denounced the claims circulating on social media that the conflict erupted because the residents of the town did not rally in support of the Prosperity Party.

In connection with the incident, Temesgen, said the road was closed in the town for about 3 hours but later the problem was solved by the efforts of the town’s elderly, youth and the security forces. He also said that there has been peaceful movement in and around Merawi since the evening.North Mecha Woreda Peace and Security Bureau earlier denounced media reports that indicate police shot and killed innocent civilians in connection with the protest as “completely false”. AS

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